This month, Trudeau’s government announced that it will tax only 20 percent of carbon emissions, not the planned 30 percent. Some Trump-threatened industries, including cement and steelmaking, will only see 10 percent of their emissions taxed, according to The Globe and Mail.
“If the countries with whom we are competing—and especially that big one to the south of us—do not have that kind of a [carbon tax] system in place, then you are having your hands tied behind your back,” Dennis Darby, the president of a Canadian manufacturing organization, told that paper.
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Yet even as he fights for his political life, Trudeau has found it easy to keep supporting new fossil-fuel infrastructure. In May, his government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline project, which will likely assure its construction. The pipeline, which is opposed by environmental groups and several indigenous nations, will let Canada easily export hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day to Asia.
If Trudeau loses next year, and conservatives repeal his carbon tax, then his government’s climate legacy will be a pipeline, not a reduction in emissions. And if Canada abandons its climate policy, then it will follow the path set by another Anglophone petit petrostate: Australia.
Oz is the only country in the world to adopt an ambitious price on carbon pollution and then promptly repeal it. Its aggressive climate policy—adopted by the left-leaning Labor Party in 2012—was repealed by Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s rightwing government two years later.
Which is to say that Australian climate policy is already weird and mangled—and, indeed, that Australian energy policy as a whole is weird and mangled. Australia should have cheap electricity: It is very sunny, and very windy, and its miners haul roughly $50 billion in U.S. dollars of coal out of the ground every year. Yet recently Aussies have been paying some of the highest power prices in the world. Since 2015, household power bills have doubled in cost in some states. Electricity in Sydney is now more than twice as expensive as it is in New York.
Turnbull’s downfall has to be understood in light of that policy disaster. The former prime minister spent months trying to put together a “National Energy Guarantee” that would address its electricity crisis, mostly by making Obamacare-style improvements to the power market. The same bill also legislated some modest emissions cuts that were promised under the Paris Agreement.
Rightwing lawmakers, many of whom are allied with Australia’s booming fossil-fuel industry, seized on the climate aspects of the legislation. So last week, Turnbull abandoned it. The embarrassment ultimately led to his ouster: By Friday, his party’s right wing had voted to replace him.